Campus News

Bethel’s ERC jumps into the third dimension

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3-D printing is the way of the future, it seems. Many libraries and schools have already installed the high-tech devices, and Bethel has just joined their ranks. This summer, a brand-new 3-D printer was installed in the Education Resource Center, or ERC, in the Bowen Library. According to Mark Root, director of Library Services, the idea for the 3-D printer came from seeing how other libraries were making use of it. “It basically came from going to a library conference and seeing how a library had done it and how it had brought more people in,” he said. The choice to house it in the ERC was fairly simple. Root said, “It made sense to put it in the ERC, because we view it as a piece of (educational) technology, and the ERC’s mission is to have ed technology.” 3D Printer_1 3D printing is pretty much as it sounds. Students can download or create .stl files that work in tandem with an app the ERC has on an Android tablet. Once the files are uploaded to the tablet, adjustments can be made on the tablet to the schematic, such as size. Then it’s sent to the printer, which then melts and layers PLA plastic according to the design in the file. A typical job can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to print, depending on the size of the project. However, certain more complex projects may even take up to eight hours. When I walked in to the ERC to meet with Education Resources Librarian Tim Amstutz, I was surprised to see how much the printer has already been used. Among the small, colorful models I saw were a Sears Tower model, the Helm logo, and even a mockingjay pin from “The Hunger Games” series. Amstutz himself had printed out a stand for the tablet that goes along with the printer, showing its practical use along with the more whimsical examples. “There are applications (that range) from creating your own custom jewelry to bracelets, architectural models that you may have created, bridges, things for engineering students,” he said. He also said that there are many educational opportunities for students relating to the printer. 3-D printers are being installed in many public libraries and schools, and Amstutz thinks that education majors should become familiar with how the printer operates. Amstutz expressed hope to work with some professors on integrating the printer in with some entry-level projects, especially in the education department, so students can be familiar with how it works. “Just some entry-level type things,” he said, “like maybe just some objects that have already been downloaded on the Internet. There are lots of websites that you can go where you can get these files already made.” One such site mentioned by Amstutz is www.thingiverse.com. “There are thousands of projects that people have created already,” he said. To get the files on the tablet, students can either use the tablet’s built-in web browser to download the files, or bring an SD card with the files on it. The printer is available for as long as the ERC is open, 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., but Amstutz recommends that students who haven’t used the printer come before 5:00 P.M. so he can show them how it works. There is no cost to students to use the printer right now. “I’d be happy to explain to anyone how to use this, give them a short tutorial on how to print,” he said. According to Root, the printer has generated interest within various college departments, including the art, science, education, and theatre departments. Since the printer has only been here four weeks, the staff is still discovering all its capabilities. Root mentioned that he saw a model that was made with different colors layered into one model. “We’re still learning how it works and what all it can do,” he said, citing multiple examples of projects he’s seen that he doesn’t think would have been possible the first week. Root said that the staff’s next step is to figure out how to print multicolored models. As you can see, the printer has certainly generated some interest on campus, especially during the first week of school in August. Staff is hoping this interest keeps up, and that more students will become familiar with this up-and-coming technology.

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